Jared Polis: Thriving public lands today, stronger water security tomorrow
Our forests and our mountains where we fish, bike, hunt, ski, board, snowmobile and play are an iconic part of what it means to be Coloradan. We owe it to ourselves and every future Coloradan to protect our public lands, particularly from being cut up and auctioned off to high-bidding special interests, reducing access and harming our quality of life.
We often think of public lands as simply providing great views or a few hours of wholesome outdoor recreation. But ask any Coloradan — especially Coloradans in the Yampa Valley — and you’ll hear about the greater importance of our public lands to our local communities, economies, businesses and farms.
Steamboat Springs is a prime example of how public lands can help drive our local economies, and we see this trend statewide. Our Colorado outdoor recreation industry brings in over $28 billion and provides nearly 230,000 jobs across the state. From Steamboat to Salida, Coloradans know that when we protect our public lands, we are protecting outdoor recreation across our state, ensuring a sustainable future for fly-fishing guides, river rafting companies, mountain bike outfitters and more.
As governor, I’ll make sure that our public lands stay in public hands. I believe that threats to sell off our public lands are also threats to harm our local businesses and communities, which is why one of my first policies in my campaign was the Keep Colorado Wild plan: a comprehensive policy to protect our public lands, open spaces and wildlife in Colorado.
My plan recognizes the important role public lands play when it comes to water security. Nationally, we find that the water for 53 percent of Americans originates on public land or private open space. Ranchers and farmers know how strong the connection is between public lands and water security — even Denver Water sees it, which is why they’ve spent over $16.5 million over five years to help the forest land and watershed conservation efforts of the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado, because healthy public land means stronger water security.
This year’s drought has had a particularly heavy presence in the high country, leaving a strong sense of worry across the Yampa basin. In August, the first call on the upper Yampa River came through and the concerning reality of this drought set in for communities, businesses, ranchers and water rights holders across the Yampa basin.
I recognize the stress that this drought has imposed on Northern Colorado, and if I’m elected governor, it will be my commitment to every Colorado community to work together through these times of drought by implementing effective water policies to get us through.
I’ve included these policies in my Keep Colorado Wild plan because the protection of our public land is a vital step toward a more secure water future for every Coloradan. Our Keep Colorado Wild plan calls for the implementation and improvement of the Colorado Water Plan, and the safeguarding of our water quality and quantity, as well as opposition to any transmountain diversions that are not developed through the collaborative process that the interbasin compact committees have agreed upon.
Colorado’s water future can seem uncertain, and the pains of drought are already being felt across our state. I believe that we will move through this to a more sustainable water future together as a state. Colorado’s collective push toward a stronger future for water and public lands in Colorado is a bold effort, one that I will be prepared and honored to lead as Colorado’s next governor. We begin by protecting our public lands.
Colorado governor Democratic candidate
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